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Riverhead to hold key vote on recreational marijuana sales

Riverhead Town officials will vote Wednesday on whether

Riverhead Town officials will vote Wednesday on whether or not to opt out of allowing retail sales of recreational marijuana. Credit: Randee Daddona

Riverhead officials will vote Wednesday on whether to opt out of allowing retail sales of marijuana in town.

A June 15 public hearing drew a mix of opinions from those in favor of and against opting out of a New York State law passed in April that legalized recreational marijuana.

The town also posted a survey that closed in May asking residents whether the town should allow the sales. There were 1,408 people who took the survey — 86.7% said they were Riverhead residents and 13.3% identified as business owners — and of those, 73.4% supported local in-store marijuana sales and 26.6% opposed it.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar told Newsday last week that the survey was only a sample of the town’s population of about 33,000. While noting the survey was a key tool in understanding public sentiment on the matter, Aguiar said she has also received letters from local churches opposing retail marijuana sales.

"When you talk about research validity, the survey is good to have, you don’t discount it, but you use it as just one of the tools to justify how and why you reach out to the people," Aguiar said.

The survey also asked respondents where in town retail sales should be permitted. Most, 36.8%, voted for the downtown area; 21.9% voted for Route 58; 9.6% favored industrial areas; and 8% voted for other areas. Almost 24% of respondents voted for none of the suggested areas.

Other municipalities have indicated they would look to opt out of marijuana sales. Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer has said all Long Island communities should opt out of retail cannabis sales. Freeport officials in April said the village would likely opt out, and Hempstead Town officials in April also indicated they would seek to opt out.

The meeting is at 2 p.m. at Town Hall.

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